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Sticky Street Furniture Situation Gets Stickier

The city recently issued a Request For Proposals (RFP) for a 20-year contract to furnish Toronto's streets. The renderings that were released two weeks ago were not very well-received, however, and there's been a growing clamour for an across-the-board rejection of all the submissions.

Now it seems that the proposals are not only dull, ad-soaked copies of the dull, ad-soaked pieces of furniture already on our streets, but that one of the firms bidding for the contract has a direct conflict of interest in the competition. It turns out that the Project Director for the RFP, Bob Milward, worked to develop a billboard for the designer of one the entrants, Astral Media, while under contract to the City to manage the RFP.

The good people at Illegal Signs have a few things to say about the matter:

We are in the process of filing a formal complaint with Justice Osborne (the Fairness Commissioner for the RFP) regarding the conflict matter; we expect bidders to file similar complaints.

We will suggest that allowing the director of a public RFP to simultaneously provide consulting services to one of the bidders in his private practice would set a very bad precedent for the fairness of future RFPs.

We will also point out that Mr. Millward and City staff have showed favoritism to Astral during the RFP process and that they filed false information to cover up that favoritism.

Needless to say that if this is true the entire process of the RFP is cast into doubt. Illegal Signs is stating that they "expect this untenable conflict of interest to end the RFP," and so the competition (and the unfortunate submissions) may end up going down the drain.

Although it doesn't speak much to the level of confidence we can place in this city-run competition, this may be a blessing in disguise. I'd be happy to see the RFP cut short if it means canning the submissions we've seen; we might get left in street-furniture limbo for a while, but, given the length of the contract, it would be better to take the time to do it right.

Image by Astral Media.


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